Don't Underestimate Your Ordinary Obedience

Don't Underestimate Your Ordinary Obedience

by: Helen Hummel

Every time I read it, I'm struck by the story of Ananias in the Bible. We don't know much about this man, but Acts 9:10 tells us he was a disciple who lived in Damascus. I tend to imagine him as an ordinary, everyday believer–someone like you or me. He isn't mentioned anywhere else in Scripture, and we don't know how he became a Christian. All we know for certain is that he was committed to following Christ, right where God had placed him.

One day, the Lord called Ananias's name. A humble servant, Ananias replied, "Here I am, Lord." The Lord then gave Ananias very clear instructions: get up, go to a specific house in Damascus, and ask for Saul, a man from Tarsus who recently lost his sight. God told Ananias that Saul was praying and waiting for his arrival.

But, while God's instructions were clear, Ananias wasn't so sure–and if I'm being honest, I would probably respond the same way. Why? Because Ananias knew who Saul was.

Scripture tells us Saul was a notorious persecutor of Christians, and he had traveled from Jerusalem to Damascus with authority from the highest Jewish officials to arrest all who believed in the risen Christ. It's no wonder Ananias was hesitant.

But Ananias couldn't fully understand all God was preparing to do in Saul's life. Just a few verses before, Jesus had miraculously appeared to Saul, and he was about to transform Saul's life forever. But first, God invited Ananias to play a role in this unfolding story. All he had to do was go to the man who had license to imprison him and share the gospel. Simple enough, right?

I don't know about you, but I wrestle with much less risky acts of obedience. In 1 Peter 3:15, God's Word instructs believers to always be ready to share the reason for the hope we have. But at times, I still struggle to share my faith with those around me–with friends, neighbors, even strangers. In these moments, I'm encouraged by Ananias's story because of what happened next.

Hearing the Lord's call, Ananias was faithful to obey. He tracked down Saul and placed his hands over Saul's eyes. At once, Saul regained his sight, and Scripture tells us he was baptized and began proclaiming the gospel. Later, Saul–renamed Paul–becomes one of the most dedicated missionaries in the early church and the most prolific New Testament author.

As for Ananias, we never learn anything else about this man in Scripture–we don't know what happened to him or how God continued to work in his life. But the impact of his obedience echoes throughout the rest of the New Testament. As we read Paul's letters and learn how the gospel continued to spread, we can remember Ananias's simple, faithful act of obedience.

In a way, this incredible story reminds me of another conversion story–this one found in the life of C.S. Lewis. An Oxford professor and a self-avowed atheist, Lewis became friends with another prolific writer, J. R. R. Tolkien, who was a believer. It is said that the two were on a walk one night with another colleague when Tolkien began to make a compelling case for Christ, pointing Lewis to the truth of the gospel.

I can't help but wonder how Tolkien felt that night. Was he nervous to share his faith, unsure how Lewis might respond? Did he silently worry Lewis might have a more compelling argument up his sleeve? Was there a part of him that wondered if this whole "evangelism" thing was even worth it? I don't know, but I can imagine the thoughts that would have swirled through my mind.

Their conversation must have stuck with Lewis, though, because three days later, he suddenly became convinced of the truth about Jesus. Of all places, he was riding in a motorcycle sidecar on the way to the zoo when this radical transformation took place. In his book Surprised by Joy, Lewis recounts this very experience:

"When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the Zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion. ... It was more like when a man, after long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake."

As I read each of these stories, I am struck by the faithful obedience of those who courageously shared their faith. Now, certainly, God's plans and purposes would have still been accomplished without these men. Our God is sovereign, and nothing can hinder His will–not even our disobedience. However, in His grace, God chose to use Tolkien, Ananias, and so many other faithful men and women throughout history as vessels to fulfill His plans for salvation.

Dear sister, don't underestimate the impact of your obedience, for it too can have a great effect. Like a pebble dropped in quiet waters, our faithfulness can ripple further than we could ever imagine. As the finite creatures we are, we can never know all God is already working out in the lives of those around us. When we feel called to share our faith, we can remember this truth. When we feel uncertain, we can be encouraged by the fact that we truly have no idea how God might use our everyday acts of obedience.

Even when we don't understand what the Lord is calling us to, may we be those who say "yes" to Him. May we be the kind of women who humbly follow wherever God leads, even when it doesn't add up or make sense, confident that He will do above and beyond all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

The Daily Grace Podcast

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